The A story deals with Angel & Spike jetting off to Rome to retrieve a demon's head. Of course that becomes secondary when they discover Buffy is dating their arch-nemisis, The Immortal.
I can't picture how the story would have changed if Sarah Michelle Gellar was actually in the episode. "The Girl in Question" probably would have become more dramatic as the Angel-Buffy-Spike triangle would have been fully played out. As it is, we get the impression that all three parties are comfortable and have the ability to move on from their 7 seasons of relationship mess.
Though I did get annoyed by the glimpses of "Buffy" on the dance floor with the The Immortal. Deknight, Goddard, and Greenwalt should have taken a page from the Will & Grace or Frasier playbook and kept them off screen like Stan or Maris. Also annoying is how Andrew was written this time. He changed tones in the middle of the episode to become confident and tactfully correct, which definitely wasn't the Andrew we saw in "Damage." Plus, since when does he date women? And could we be even more stereotypical of Italians? Loved the Wolfram & Hart Rome CEO, but everything else just smacked of trotting out the preceived notions. It was funny, but that's a bone I have to pick.
Final thing: if you are going to have a throwback to the show's history, can it not be a throwaway scene? Julie Benz and Juliet Landau should have had an another scene or two. It's like The WB caved to the producers' requests for them just to use their return as promotional material. (One more reason The WB sucks.)
It may have been slightly out-of-character for Angel and Spike, but damn if they weren't hilarious this week. Glimpses of their petty yet comic rivalry were there in "Chosen" and "Just Rewards," but having it be the entire episode was just....great for me. I love the laugh, and the other Odd Couple provided it in spades (though I bet others were annoyed by it). As usual, though, there is some evolution of maturity between the two of them. Their competition is just a mask for learning and growing. Both are ensouled vampires, so they have to balance out that primal instinct to just be ruthless (whether it be in fighting style or verbal wordplay) against the capacity to have sympathy and reason. Showing that sympathy and reason, though, gives the other the perfect chance for a dig and some kind of victory. And "Destiny" showed that neither Angel nor Spike are comfortable 'losing' to the other.
The B story didn't detract from the main plot for once. Fred's parents, unaware that she's dead, come to visit. Amy Acker deftly displays why, in a perfect TV world, she would win the Best Supporting Actress in a Television Drama this year. She has to shift gears all over the place between Fred & Illyria, and never missed a beat in her interactions with Wesley and "her parents".
It's one thing if Fred comes to Wesley during a drunken sleep, but now that he knows Illyria can become her it's going to pain him more. There's a dichomy in his mind where he's comforted by the appearance of Fred, but intellectually knowing that it's not her. This is bound to taint his memories of Fred even more, knowing that he can see her but knowing it's not her.
"The Girl in Question" is a schizophrenic comedy that made me wonder if Jane Espenson had any hand in it. It could have been a lot more disjointed, but this works for me. If anything, this reminded of classic season 1 with Angel & Spike becoming the Cordy/Doyle or Cordy/Wesley comic relief. And based on the final 2 episodes, we'll need this reservior of laughs to draw on.
"The Girl in Question": B+